Boeing First Autonomous Flying Car Has Taken Flight

The airplane company tested its autonomous passenger air vehicle and it was a high-flying success.

Jul 30, 2019

The future of autonomous cars is in the air, literally. Boeing, the aircraft manufacturer's flying car soared into the skies over Virginia in late January, 2019 in a successful test flight.

Urban transportation may soon feature flying cars soaring above the crowded city streets. At least that is the Jetsonian future that Boeing is trying to create.

Boeing NeXt is in charge of the company's urban air mobility program and the Boeing subsidy Aurora Flight Sciences (acquired in 2017) designed and developed the autonomous passenger air vehicle (PAV) prototype that completed a controlled takeoff, hover and landed during the test flight  according to a company statement. The electric vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) vehicle prototype is designed for fully autonomous short flights.

"In one year, we have progressed from a conceptual design to a flying prototype," said Boeing Chief Technology Officer Greg Hyslop. "Boeing's expertise and innovation have been critical in developing aviation as the world's safest and most efficient form of transportation, and we will continue to lead with a safe, innovative and responsible approach to new mobility solutions."

The PAV 30 ft (9.14 meters) long and 28 ft (8.53 meters) wide prototype is powered by an electric propulsion system and was designed for fully autonomous flight from take-off to landing. The PAV has a range of 50 miles.

"This is what revolution looks like, and it's because of autonomy," said John Langford, president and chief executive officer of Aurora Flight Sciences. "Certifiable autonomy is going to make quiet, clean and safe urban air mobility possible."

This test flight was the latest milestone for Boeing NeXt that has been working with regulatory agencies and industry partners to bring the dream of flying cars to fruition. Boeing NeXt also is working on an unmanned fully electric cargo air vehicle (CAV) designed to transport up to 500 pounds (226.80 kilograms) as well as other urban, regional and global mobility platforms. Boeing will continue to test the safety and reliability of their autonomous air transportation.

There is competition to become the first commercially viable flying car. Airbus SE tested its Vahana, a self-piloting air taxi last year and Intel, AeroMobil and EHang Inc. are also testing their versions of flying vehicles.

Alaka'i Technologies unveiled Skai, the first hydrogen-powered VTOL in May 2019. Skai is intended to be used as sky taxis, cargo carriers, and ambulances. Although not designed as an autonomous vehicle, the company is not ruling that out in future models.

Uber Air is planning shared air transportation between cities and suburbs and vehicles within cities. The company is working with unnamed partners to launch fleets of small electric VTOLs in Dallas, Los Angeles and international cities.

Aurora Flight Services was working with Uber on a flying taxi when it was acquired by Boeing.

Flying cars proves that what was once just futuristic dreams are now reality. The best part about these these new industries is that are promoting clean green travel along with innovation. With the emerging electric and autonomous vehicle technology, the sky is no longer the limit to how high we will soar.

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BONNIE RIVA RAS, EDITOR & WRITER
Bonnie Riva Ras has dedicated her life to promoting social justice. She loves to write about empowering women, helping children, educational innovations, and advocating for the environment & sustainability.